Alnylam Sued By Tekmira, Curis Cancer Drug Shows Results, Still River Gets $11.5M, & More Boston-Area Life Sciences News

3/25/11Follow @xconomy

We had plenty of headlines from New England area drug companies this week, with news of clinical trial results, technology developments, lawsuits, and funding.

—The FDA set April 28 as the date that an advisory committee will meet on Cambridge, MA-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ (NASDAQ: VRTX) application for approval of telaprevir, its experimental drug for hepatitis C. The federal agency, which often follows the recommendations of such advisory groups, will likely decide on the drug’s approval application on May 23, Vertex said.

—Cambridge-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY) has been working since 2006 with Vancouver, BC-based Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, matching its RNAi therapy with Almira’s drug delivery technology, but Tekmira filed a lawsuit against Alnylam stating the Cambridge company has committed misappropriation of trade secrets as part of the partnership. My colleague Luke interviewed Alnylam CEO John Maraganore to get his take on the litigation.

Synageva BioPharma of Lexington, MA, nabbed $25 million from its previous lead investors to fund its pipeline of drugs for treating rare diseases. The company is in early clinical development with its lead drug, SBC-102, which is intented to replace the enzyme called lysosomal acid lipase; deficiencies of the enzyme cause fatty materials called lipids to accumulate in tissues throughout the body, leading to gastrointestinal, liver, and cardiovascular complications.

—Vismodegib, a drug being developed by Lexington-based Curis (NASDAQ: CRIS) and South San Francisco-based Genentech, met its primary endpoint of tumor shrinkage in a study of patients with an inoperable form of severe skin cancer called advanced basal cell carcinoma. Roche, which owns Genentech, indicated it plans to submit an application for regulatory approval of the drug sometime this year, Curis said.

—Still River Systems, a Littleton, MA-based maker of proton therapies for treating cancer, raised $11.5 million. And Marlborough, MA-based medical devices firm CardioFocus pinned down a $5 million debt-based financing from Silicon Valley Bank.

—Peptimmune, a Somerville, MA-based company bought by Genzyme in 1999 and spun out by the biotech in 2002, filed for Chapter 7 liquidation this week. The company has about $2 million in assets and $2.2 million in liabilities, and has raised about $100 million in equity and debt.

—My colleague Ryan wrote about the advances that Cambridge-based VBI is making in addressing a major challenge in the vaccine field, by developing thermostable vaccines, which don’t need to be stored in freezing or cool temperatures.

PerkinElmer, a Waltham, MA-based provider of life sciences tools and services, inked an agreement to buy CambridgeSoft, a Cambridge-based supplier of software and scientific databases to life sciences and biotech companies. PerkinElmer said it paid about $220 million total for that purchase and the acquisition of Research Triangle Park, NC-based ArtusLabs.

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